Q. What is stormwater?
A. Stormwater is rainwater that “runs off” from impervious surfaces (rooftops, parking lots, driveways, etc.) and lawns at a much faster rate than it would from woods or large grassy areas. This runoff flows quickly through storm drain pipes into the streams. It can flood streets, erode stream banks, and topple trees. Runoff also picks up pollutants such as grit, oil and heavy metals from autos, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, and sediment from bare spots. Unlike sanitary sewers that go to a treatment plant, most stormwater is discharged directly to local water bodies. Increasing amounts of impervious surfaces in urban areas, such as roof tops, driveways, sidewalks, patios, parking lots, and streets, decrease the ability of the water to soak into the ground. An increased potential for flooding is a risk from greater volumes of runoff entering the stormwater and drainage system at a faster rate.
Q. What is stormwater pollution?
A. Water from rain or melting snow either seeps into the ground or “runs off” to lower areas, making its way into streams, lakes, and other water bodies. On its way, runoff water can pick up and carry many substances that pollute water. Examples of common pollutants include fertilizers, and pesticides, pet wastes, sediments, oils, salts, trace metals, grass clippings, leaves and litter. Stormwater polluted runoff can be generated anywhere people use or alter the land, such as farms, yards, roofs, driveways, construction sites, and roadways.
Q. Why is stormwater runoff a problem?
A. As precipitation falls on agricultural and undeveloped areas, it is primarily absorbed into the ground or slowly runs off into streams, rivers or other water bodies. However, development resulting in rooftops and paved areas prevents water from being absorbed and creates a faster rate of runoff. This development often causes localized flooding or other water quantity or quality issues. In addition, stormwater can carry harmful pollutants, cause flooding, erode topsoil and stream banks, and destroy habitats.
Q. Why do we need to manage our stormwater runoff?
A. Stormwater runoff needs to be managed just as any other natural resource. First, it is needed to maintain the quality of our natural watercourses as drinking water supplies and for recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, water skiing, etc. Secondly, stormwater also needs to be managed to minimize damage that may occur when stormwater runoff exceeds the capacity of the pipes and open channels used to carry stormwater to our rivers and streams.
Q. What is a Stormwater Fee Concept?
A. A Stormwater Fee Concept is a financing mechanism that establishes a dedicated funding source specifically to pay for stormwater management activities. The Stormwater Fee is for establishing funds to generate revenues and fund expenses separately in a self-supported "Enterprise Fund" that legally can only be spent on stormwater activities and not used for any other purpose. Businesses and residents within DAMA will pay a temporary stormwater fee for one year and based on the number of sanitary sewer or solid waste units. The revenue collected will fund the Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan (CBPRP) which outlines the programs activities and related maintenance and capital BMP projects.
Q. Why is the Stormwater fee needed and how will the revenue be used?
A. DAMA is in the process of implementing a stormwater fee rather than raise property taxes or cut services in response to Federal water quality requirements as a result of the 1972 Clean Water Act and the US Environmental Protection Agency creating a program to improve water quality by regulating discharges into the surface waters of the United States. Initially, the program was focused on discharges from industrial sites and municipal wastewater. In 1990, the USEPA added stormwater runoff from major industrial facilities, municipal storm sewers with populations over 100,000 and construction sites over 5 acres were added to the program. In 2003, the program was expanded to regulate small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) and locally the stringent water quality Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan regulations were added with the goal of providing guidance towards the construction and implementation of stormwater quality Best Management Practices (BMPs) to provide pollutant loading reductions for areas such as the DAMA service area. In order to comply with these federal unfunded mandates with limited funds and resources, Kingston Township, Dallas Township and Dallas Borough have authorized DAMA to address their stormwater obligations. By doing this collectively, DAMA can address the municipality’s requirements much more efficiently than each municipality performing these expensive water quality tasks on their own. This water quality and pollution prevention plan represents a prediction of one route to accomplish its goal. It should be noted that the plan is fluid and will evaluated and updated yearly as specific proposed locations and types of BMPs are analyzed and designed, as new opportunities for partnership are realized, and as revised regulations and BMPs are developed and implemented for the DAMA service area.
The stormwater fee that will be used to generate the revenue to enable DAMA to address these “water quality” and “pollution prevention” plan concerns has been carefully studied by DAMA Board and Staff with the support of environmental, engineering, and financial experts that provided input through the stormwater technical advisory committee known as the TAC. After careful consideration it was determined that a temporary stormwater fee would be implemented and begin January 2019. A permanent stormwater fee that is the most fair and equitable method of generating revenue to manage stormwater activities will be developed and implemented and based on impervious area is scheduled to begin January 2020 there forward.
Q: What are some of the types of stormwater “water quality” services and activities DAMA will provide and will be funded in the stormwater rate?
A: DAMA will provide “water quality” stormwater services and activities that pertain to increasing the quality of local rivers, streams, creeks, waterways and water bodies that have significant direct and indirect impact on water supply and water quality in the area. Some “water quality” examples included in the rate are as follows:
- the unfunded mandate Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan” (CBPRP) stormwater quality regulations
- GIS mapping
- public education and outreach
- project design construction and management
Q: What are some of the types of stormwater services and activities DAMA will not provide and excluded from the stormwater rate?
A: DAMA will not provide “water quantity” or flooding and drainage stormwater services and activities that pertain to the stormwater system and infrastructure. Some “water quantity” examples not included in the rate are as follows:
- conduits and appurtenant features
- catch basins
- pumping stations
- natural streams
- pipe infrastructure
- pumping stations
- stormwater structures
- stormwater outlets
- retention and/or detention basins
- other structural or not structural components and equipment designed to transport, move or regulate stormwater
Q. What other communities are involved and what services will they provide?
A. The communities of Kingston Township, Dallas Township and Dallas Borough authorized DAMA to address their stormwater water quality services and activities as listed above. These communities will continue to provide the water quantity (flooding and drainage) activities to the same level of service as currently provided.
Q. Why has DAMA chosen to implement a separate fee for stormwater management?
A. By establishing a dedicated funding source through Stormwater fees, DAMA can ensure that the revenue required to manage and address this important water quality Pollutant Reduction Plan and system is available. The Stormwater fee enables DAMA to take a more aggressive approach to stormwater management.
Q. What is the basis for the Stormwater fee?
A. The initial Stormwater fee is based on the number of sewer or solid waste units you are currently paying for one year 2019. The permanent stormwater fee will be based on the square footage of impervious surface area on your lot(s) and will begin January 2020. The vast majority of stormwater programs across the country have found this to be the most equitable and legally defensible way to charge and collect revenues for this program. In essence, customers pay a fee related to the amount of runoff generated from their site, which is directly related to the amount of impervious surface on the site. The Stormwater fee is a "fee for service" like the sanitary sewer and solid waste fee for service you already pay.
Q: Will all properties have to pay?
A. All properties that currently pay a sewer and/or solid waste bill will pay the initial fee beginning in January 2019.
Q: Will tax-exempt, non-profit organizations like schools, churches, and hospitals be charged for stormwater?
A: Yes. Much like these organizations now pay for sewer and solid waste services, they will pay the initial user fee based on the number of seer and/or solid waste units for 2019.
Q: Why can’t we just use existing sewer rates to cover stormwater costs?
A: The money currently collected for sanitary sewer service is needed to provide those services.
Q. Do other communities in Pennsylvania have a stormwater fee?
A. Yes, approximately 10 communities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have established a stormwater user fee and over 3,000 nationwide have a stormwater fee.
Q. What is the mission of DAMA’s stormwater program?
A. “To preserve and enhance the quality of the environment and infrastructure through prompt, cost effective and courteous delivery of services which protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens of our communities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed”
Q: Isn’t this just another tax?
A: No, this new fee is considered a "fee for service" like the sanitary sewer and solid waste fee for service you already pay.
Q: I don’t remember voting on this tax. How can DAMA do this without a vote?
A: This is not a tax. This is a user fee just like your sewer and solid waste fee. Under state law, municipalities can set up a user fee for sanitary sewer and/or solid waste by a vote of DAMA Board.
Q. Is it legal for a community to establish a Stormwater user fee?
A. Yes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed a law in 2013 that allows municipalities and governmental agencies such as DAMA to establish a stormwater fee using Board action procedures to create such a program and fee legally.
Q: How can we be sure that the money raised will be used for stormwater improvements and not diverted to other projects by DAMA?
A: All of the funds raised by the stormwater fee will go into a stormwater “Enterprise Fund.” Under state law, money in enterprise funds can only be used for their intended purposes. DAMA currently has separate enterprise funds for its sanitary sewer and solid waste programs.
Q: Won’t this stormwater program create a whole new government bureaucracy?
A: No. the Stormwater Program will be operated by the DAMA Stormwater Administrator and only a small portion of the funds will be used for administration.
Q: How will the new stormwater fee be billed?
A: The new stormwater charge is a fee for service, not a tax. The fee will appear on DAMA sanitary sewer and solid waste monthly bill you currently receive as a separate “stormwater” line item.
Q: How are properties with multiple renters handled?
A: If you currently pay a sewer and/or solid waste charge you will be charged for the new stormwater fee.
Q: I live in an apartment or rental property. Will I have to pay?
A: If you currently pay a sewer and/or solid waste charge you will be charged for the new stormwater fee.
Q. When will the stormwater fee take effect?
A. The temporary stormwater fee will be begin and take effect January 2019 and last for one year. The permanent stormwater fee based on impervious area is scheduled to begin January 2020. More detailed information will be added to the website regarding the permanent fee and rate structure known as the ERU Impervious area rate structure method as it becomes available ahead of the planned January 2020 start date for the permanent rate structure fee program.
Q: When will rates go up?
A: The current temporary rate structure method and stormwater fee has been approved for one year 2019. DAMA is currently evaluating a permanent rate structure method planned to begin January 2020. The website will be updated as soon as more detailed information is available regarding the permanent rate structure method.
Q: Why does DAMA need money to address Pollution Prevention?
A: DAMA’s water bodies, streams, watersheds, wetlands, floodplains, and riparian buffer areas collectively have significant value and influence on water supply, water quality, and wildlife/fisheries habitat. When properly protected and managed these interrelated systems can act to filter pollutants, protect wildlife habitat so as not to contribute or exacerbate the problem for the Back Mountain region of Luzerne County and Harvey’s Lake.
DAMA currently does not have a source of dedicated funding for addressing the USEPA and Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan water quality regulations and BMP (best management project) capital improvement projects. DAMA's temporary business plan based stormwater rate will provide funding for several BMP projects:
Our Mission Statement: “To preserve and enhance the quality of the environment and infrastructure through prompt, cost effective, and courteous delivery of services which protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens of our communities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”